LARAMIE — Just one team has put up 500 yards of offense on Wyoming this year: the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-12. If Colorado State’s offense just has an average day Saturday at War Memorial Stadium, they’ll be right there.
“Anytime you look at a football program, a lot of times you start at quarterback, and (Nick) Stevens is playing really well for them,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “He’s throwing the ball well. Obviously, they have some weapons, not only with a senior-laden offensive line, but a one-two punch with (Dalyn) Dawkins and (Izzy) Matthews at running back.
“The receiver (Michael) Gallup is an outstanding receiver, and their numbers back it up. They’re averaging close to 500 yards a game, I think 499. They’re really good on third down, and they control the football. Great opportunity, and a big challenge for us.”
Stevens currently leads the Mountain West in passing yards (2,755, third nationally), passing touchdowns (22) and quarterback rating (151.6) and is completing more than 60 percent of his passes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Stevens has been pressured on 100 dropbacks this year, 15th in the country, but has been sacked just 4 percent of the time he has been under pressure, best in the country.
“I think a lot of that is (head coach Mike) Bobo was a quarterback,” Bohl said. “He coached quarterbacks. I think he’s done a great job mentoring him. Stevens gets rid of the football. He places it different places, so therefore he doesn’t take a lot of sacks. Not that he hasn’t had some pressure on him. He’s just cutting the ball loose.”
It helps when you have a receiver like Gallup on the other end. The senior leads the nation with 1,167 receiving yards and is second with 72 receptions.
“Well, he’s going to be in the National Football League,” Bohl said. “I can tell you that. … You see somebody who’s a sturdy 6-foot-1, about 200 pounds and strong. So when he comes off the line, he’s got excellent explosion, but you’re not dealing with a slight guy that just runs fast.
“He uses his body well. He’s able to go up and make contested catches. He runs well after the catch. He’s strong, he’s physical, and he’s playing with a great deal of — I don’t know what the term would be, but it’s almost like he and Stevens know each other before something’s even going to happen.
“So that combination has really been productive, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to slow that down. To say we’re going to eliminate that, I don’t think we can do that, but to try to limit the number of big plays and number of catches is going to be important.”
Wyoming’s offense has paled in comparison to the high-scoring group Wyoming boasted a year ago. But it took a step forward Saturday, scoring 42 points, its most against a conference team in its last seven tries. After starting the game 5 of 15, quarterback Josh Allen completed 11 of his next 13 passes with three touchdowns to end the game. His five touchdowns responsible for matched a career high and tight end Austin Fort scored three touchdowns in his third game of the year. Wyoming eclipsed 300 total yards of offense for the first time against a Mountain West opponent this year.
Still, the Cowboys’ offense is not entirely in the clear. The Pokes had outstanding field position on the majority of their touchdown drives, and averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against New Mexico.
“Coach (Brent) Vigen is a very capable offensive coordinator, and recognizes we put up a lot of points, but we were operating on a short field,” Bohl said. “The week prior to that, we didn’t have those takeaways, and the field was longer, and as a result our point total was down. We need to stay hungry.
“I think you’re seeing some things emerge within our offense. Certainly our ability to throw and catch. I thought our receivers made some plays, even from the first play, when James Price went up and caught a contested ball. That was encouraging. We’re running the ball a little bit better. It will be important for us to take another step forward, but any thought of being complacent I don’t think is there.”
Considering the offense it will be opposite Saturday, it can’t afford to be.